Winnepeg Willow, the lovable Canadian woodchuck, dies just days before Groundhog Day

PictureCanadian forecasters are going to have a tougher time predicting the winter weather outlook this year without the help of a special rodent. Winnipeg Willow, the lovable Canadian woodchuck known for her weather predictions on Groundhog Day, died just days before the holiday.

Willow, a five-year-old groundhog who was orphaned as a baby, died Friday night at the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“We are in complete shock and sadness with tears coming down our face to announce the passing of Winnipeg Willow this evening. She was acting her normal self this morning and eating a carrot but we came in this evening to find her gone.”

Sheila Smith, who worked with Willow for several years, said the groundhog had been very active in recent days and the death came as a complete surprise.​

We are in complete shock and sadness with tears coming down our face to announce the passing of Winnipeg Willow this…

Posted by Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre on Friday, January 29, 2016

February 2 brings the most-watched weather forecast of the year, and the only one led by a rodent. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early. If the 2nd is sunny, the groundhog will see its shadow and return back to its burrow, meaning that winter weather will persist for six more weeks.

The untimely death of Willow has prompted the center to cancel its usual Feb. 2 Groundhog Day event this year and might be a sign that the Canadian winter weather outlook does not appear to be a good one.

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